So much of estate planning involves preparing for the unexpected. This is certainly the case when it comes to putting your incapacity plan in place. An essential part of your incapacity plan is having an Advance Directive. This is a document, such as a Living Will, that lets you communicate ahead of time your preferences for the type of care you want to receive – and don’t want to receive – if you’re gravely ill or seriously injured and can’t communicate your own wishes. Advance Directives also include the Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney. This document lets you appoint an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to make these decisions for yourself.
The timing of putting these documents in place can be crucial. Often, it’s easy to put off the task of incapacity planning because we don’t think anything bad will happen to us. It can also be tough to think about what kind of medical interventions and end-of-life care you might want; the subject is admittedly uncomfortable and unpleasant.
But, people young and old find themselves in situations every day where an Advance Directive is necessary. And without it, their family members are subjected to the emotional pain, financial burden, and loss of privacy that comes with going to court to have a guardian appointed to make the necessary medical decisions.
When should you create an Advance Directive? The sooner the better. An effective Advance Directive can only be made while you’re mentally capable of understanding what you’re doing and expressing your wishes for your future medical treatment. None of us knows what tomorrow has in store. So, early planning is key.